11 November 2002 | tmensamaster-2
Astonishingly directed by Paul Verhoeven
Paul Verhoeven is known in Hollywood as a maker of ultra-violent, ultra-sleazy films. 'Showgirls' bears the brunt of many bad movie jokes and 'Total Recall' and 'Robocop' are known to be very entertaining but stupid. Depending on who you talk to, 'Basic Instinct' is either sleazy trash or an erotic masterpiece. These films definitely do not belong to the art category: They are Hollywood entertainment. Most people think that is all Verhoeven can do. They will be surprised, as I was, that his Dutch films are suitably different. They are art-house material and several times have been nominated by several critic's associations as Best Foreign Picture. De Vierde Man [The Fourth Man] is his most notable accomplishment It is truly astonishing: It is eerie, gory, sexy and chilling with an amusing and involving performance by Jeroen Krabbe as a bisexual writer who bites off more than he can chew in a sexy hairdresser in the form of blonde Soutendijk.
Krabbe plays real-life writer Gerard Reve whose books are very well-known in the world of literature. He is asked to speak at a function attended by several prominent literary fans. Strange clues are revealed in his journey. He has a hallucination on the commuter train of an eye squishing and oozing through a hotel room door and of his name on a coffin. Later, at the function, a strange woman follows him with a camera, videotaping his every move. She is Christine Halsslag, a hairdresser who is incidently the groups treasurer and says she is videotaping him as '' a memory of his visit''. Though Reve is annoyed by her pestering camera, they seem to hit it off. She shows him the hotel where the group has paid for his room in case he is too tired to go home on the train. His eyes widen, it is the same hotel where the eye oozed through the door. Seeing he is unnerved, Christine asks him if he wants to stay with her. He accepts her offer and.....Things really begin to hit it off......
Soon, some strange things are revealed. It seems that Chrissy's been married three times and her three husbands have died rather bizarre deaths. After seeing a picture of Christine's sometime boyfriend. Herrman, Reve becomes determined to sleep with him and tries to manipulate Christine to invite Herrman back. But, who is doing the real manipulating?
The film is set up similar to a Kubrick film in that everything is told in riddles and visuals that tell the story in a way that resembles some kind of fable of good and evil. The film has much religious symbolism: the opening shot is of a spider crawling over the figure of Christ on the cross and Reve himself seems to have religious visions of what may be the Virgin Mary. Christine herself begins to act strangely: she drives a bit too recklessly for him. The film is very similar to Verhoeven's 'Basic Instinct' in that we have a main character who may be fatally attracted to a killer and the potential murderess has a cold, kinky style that is too strong to resist. Soutendijk even has a resemblance to Sharon Stone: the blonde hair, the sexy yet evil smile, she's like a dramatic version of Elizabeth Hurley's devil in 'Bedazzled'. She so obviously but so easily poisoning him with her sexiness, she is like a devil, tempting the hero with endless pleasure for a high price. If the Virgin Mary finds it so important to protect Reve, isn't it conceivable that Christine is a manifestation of the devil. A behavior near the end seems to suggest this, she is done with Reve and needs to move on to a new soul
Believe it or not, I haven't given away anything. The film twists in so many directions that some things may or may not have ever happened. The film is astonishingly and intelligently directed by Verhoeven and after seeing this, you will be tempted to see his other Dutch films before he was Hollywoodized. Afterwards, I found myself wishing that Verhoeven would do another one of these, a sexy, smart and stunning film.